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USCIRF Again Recommends Turkey for Special Watch List In Light of Its Worsening Record on Religious Freedom

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has just released its 2022 Annual Report, which again recommends that Turkey be included on the “U.S. Department of State’s Special Watch List for engaging in or tolerating severe violations of religious freedom pursuant to the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA).” USCIRF made this recommendation in light of the fact that, as its report notes, “in 2021, religious freedom conditions in Turkey remained poor, with no improvement from the previous year.”

The 2022 report details the continued decline of religious freedom in Turkey over the last year, including the fact that it “took no steps to reopen the Theological School of Halki (Halki Seminary), preventing the Ecumenical Patriarchate from training clergy for more than 50 years.” USCIRF also pointed out that in Turkey, the Ecumenical Patriarchate and other minority religious communities face bureaucratic obstacles that prevented or seriously impeded their ability to practice their religion freely and fully.

The full Report contains numerous details about the continually deteriorating plight of Christians in Turkey. It states that “throughout the year, both religious and ethnic minorities faced governmental or societal targeting along religious lines,” and that “the Turkish government also failed to protect other religious sites, including historical places of worship and cemeteries.”

Turkey has been mistreating Christians and disregarding Turkey’s rich Christian heritage for years. USCIRF first added Turkey to its Watch List in 2009 as requiring “close monitoring due to the nature and extent of violations of religious freedom.” In 2012, USCIRF recommended that Turkey be designated a “Country of Particular Concern” (CPC), that is, as one of the principal violators of religious freedom worldwide, a country in which such violations are “systematic, ongoing, and egregious.”

In 2014, USCIRF returned Turkey to the Special Watch List, where it remained until 2021. In the new report, USCIRF recommends that the U.S. government return Turkey on Watch List for continuing to engage in severe violations of religious freedom pursuant to the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA).

The report on Turkey begins on page 62.

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